Fewer pregnant moms smoking, more single mothers in Moffat County, Kids Count report says | CraigDailyPress.com

Fewer pregnant moms smoking, more single mothers in Moffat County, Kids Count report says

Lauren Blair

— While fewer moms in Moffat County are smoking during pregnancy, births to single women shot up in 2013, according to data in the 2015 Kids Count in Colorado report released Monday.

The numbers revealed changing trends for pregnancies, mothers and babies in Moffat County — some of them positive and some of them challenging.

The percentage of births to women who smoke during pregnancy in Moffat County decreased significantly in 2013, down to 17.3 percent compared to 22.5 percent in 2012. Even with the improvement, the rate is still nearly two and a half times the Colorado average of 7.1 percent.

Teen pregnancy has been a historically troublesome issue for the region, however the report revealed a small drop in teen pregnancies in 2013, down to 35.8 pregnancies per 1,000 female teens age 15 to 19 compared to 38.5 in 2012.

Moffat County's rates are still drastically higher than the state average, however, which came in at 22.3 in 2013, down by two points from 2012 rates.

"Across the nation, teen birth rates have been in decline since 1990… But the Colorado teen birth rate since 2009 has been dropping much faster than the national average," said Sarah Hughes, Research Director for the Colorado Children's Campaign, which produces the report.

Recommended Stories For You

She attributes much of Colorado's success to a family planning initiative that has been operating in 37 counties for the last five years. The program provides free long-term birth control, such as intrauterine devices, to low-income women.

In Moffat and Routt counties, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is currently seeking public health funds to support community-based and school-based education programs that have been shown to decrease teen pregnancy rates nationwide, according to the VNA's Community Partnership Coordinator, Janie Dunckley.

The VNA is also on the front lines of supporting low-income women and children through programs like its nurse family partnership, a free service for first-time parents who receive in-home support through pregnancy up to two years after birth. Additionally, mothers can receive nutritional support through the federally-funded Women, Infants and Children program.

These programs provide a safety net to vulnerable populations such as single mothers, a population which appears to be growing in Moffat County. Thirty percent of births in 2013 were to single mothers compared to 24 percent the year before.

"Kids in rural counties definitely have a higher disparity of poverty and with children of minorities, that disparity is even greater," Dunckley said. "If you're born to a single mother and in a rural area, your disparity is really significant."

Statewide, the Kids Count report revealed a 1 percent drop in the state's child poverty rate, the first decline in five years. Moffat County's child poverty numbers are nearly equal to the statewide average.

"We saw a decline from 18 percent to 17 percent (statewide), which may not seem that remarkable but when you put that number in terms of kids, that's 17,000 kids that are living in families that can hopefully meet their needs," Hughes said.

Though the slight decline is encouraging, Connections 4 Kids Coordinator Betsy Overton said there is still a long way to go in bringing child poverty numbers down.

"If the mom's stressed out, then you have the whole toxic stress issue that affects children," Overton said. "It trickles all the way down to the kids no matter what… I'm hoping Bridges Out of Poverty can help combat some of that. Anything you can do to make these families stronger helps the children."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.

Notable trends in Moffat County

Births to single women:

• 30.4 percent in Moffat County compared to 23.4 percent statewide in 2013

• 23.9 percent in Moffat County in 2012

Teen births:

• 35.8 per 1,000 female teens 15 to 19 in Moffat County compared to 22.3 statewide 2013

• 38.5 in Moffat County compared to 24.3 statewide 2012

Births to women smoking during pregnancy:

• 17.3 percent in Moffat County compared to 7.1 percent statewide in 2013

• 22.5 percent in Moffat County in 2012